Evergreen Bans Menorah, Keeps Christmas Tree

City Of Denver, Which Owns Lake House, Has Rules Forbidding Religious Decorations On Public Property

Jewish leaders are challenging the Evergreen Parks and Recreation officials' decision to prohibit a menorah celebrating Hanukkah from the Evergreen Lake House while keeping a towering tree swathed in Christmas lights beside the building.

A menorah had been previously displayed near the lake house from 2005 through 2009.

"If we were told from the very beginning, 'No menorah, ever' and that is policy, then fine. But this seems to be an effort to kind of extinguish the menorah, get rid of something that was already there in previous years," said Rabbi Levi Brackman, executive director of Judaism in the Foothills, an Evergreen Jewish outreach organization.

The dispute is complicated because the Evergreen Park and Recreation District manages the property, but the city of Denver, which has owned the Lake House for over a century, has rules forbidding religious decorations on public property.

However, the Evergreen park district board's 2006 policy mandating only non-denominational displays in public spaces exempted previously displayed decorations, including holiday lights and menorah.

"In retrospect, I think my predecessor and previous boards never had the authority to put in the exemption around one specific religious display, again, because it violated city of Denver policy," said Scott Robson, executive director of the Evergreen Parks and Recreation District. "This land is owned by Denver, so their policies come first and foremost."

Robson tells 7NEWS that the lighted holiday tree was approved by Denver Parks And Recreation since the agency does not consider it a religious symbol. Denver officials backed Robinson's decision and issued the following statement:

"The City and County of Denver holds the title to the Evergreen Lake. Therefore, any and all rules, regulations and policies adopted by the City and County of Denver apply to this property. We have not received a request from Evergreen Park and Recreation District to display any structure on our property at this time."

Brackman, who says he is deeply offended by the district's decision, says he will present his concerns and arguments to officials at the Evergreen Parks and Recreation District board meeting Tuesday evening.

"It's so disappointing that in my community, the community which I call home, which I love, that me and my children and a lot of other Jewish people are made to feel that we are not included in the holiday season," Brackman said.

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